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ChatGPT Outperforms Students in Certain University Courses


Researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi conducted a study to assess the performance of the artificial intelligence chatbot, ChatGPT, in comparison to students in university courses. The study aimed to determine whether ChatGPT could potentially be used as a tool to assist students with their assignments.

The Study

The researchers collected assessment questions from various university courses, including computer science, psychology, political science, and business. They also gathered real student answers to these questions. Both the questions and the corresponding student answers were then presented to ChatGPT, which generated its own responses.

The researchers enlisted a team of graders to evaluate the responses from both ChatGPT and the students. These graders were unaware of the sources of the answers and the purpose of the grading process.


Out of the 32 surveyed courses, ChatGPT’s answers were found to be on par with or even superior to the students’ answers in nine courses. In some cases, ChatGPT significantly outperformed the students, such as in the course Introduction to Public Policy, where it achieved almost double the average score.

However, the study also revealed that ChatGPT struggled with questions that required critical analysis. It excelled in questions that relied on information recall but fell short in tasks that demanded critical thinking.

Evaluation of Assessment Design

The findings shed light on potential flaws in the design of university assessments. Thomas Lancaster from Imperial College London notes that assessments should aim to evaluate students’ critical thinking skills, an area where ChatGPT may not excel. The results suggest that current assessment methods may need improvement to truly assess students’ abilities.

Additionally, Lancaster points out that the assessments vulnerable to manipulation by ChatGPT may have already been susceptible to existing contract cheating services. These services involve students hiring professional essay writers to complete their assignments, potentially bypassing critical analysis requirements.

Attitudes towards ChatGPT

In a separate survey conducted by the research team, academics and students from various countries including the UK, US, India, Japan, and Brazil were asked about their attitudes towards using ChatGPT. Interestingly, the survey found that students were more inclined to use the chatbot than academics had anticipated.


While ChatGPT demonstrated promising performance in certain university courses, particularly in questions involving information recall, it falls short in tasks requiring critical analysis. This suggests the need for assessment designs that can effectively evaluate students’ critical thinking abilities. The study also highlights the varying attitudes towards using AI chatbots like ChatGPT among students and academics.

– Artificial Intelligence
– ChatGPT

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